Consumer Demands Drive Process Improvements
Cold storage is in high demand. According to Grand View Research, the global cold storage market is expected to reach $212 billion by 2025, expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 12 percent.
Cold storage growth is driven by consumer demands for fresh and/or organic products. Consumers also want more home-delivery and in-store pick-up options, both of which require additional space that most grocery stores don’t have. Industries such as food and beverage and pharmaceuticals are looking for new ways to protect perishable items and make them last longer during shipping. In response, cold-chain distributors must invest in technologies to optimize supply chain processes, including shipping, to deliver products as quickly as possible—especially over the “last mile.”
Speed of delivery is always a top concern—not to just keep food fresh, but to meet consumer demands for fast and low-cost delivery of customized orders. One way to do this is by creating a network of regional distribution centers, or nodes. Established in urban areas, these centers are closer to the customer base, which reduces delivery times and increases shelf life. Instead of constructing new distribution facilities, companies will rent and rehabilitate existing space to create a modern, cold storage environment.
More Efficient Designs
To satisfy ever-changing consumer demands, cold storage distributors are paying more attention to efficient use of space in their facilities, and how and when they load product. For example, “shippers increasingly request that food processing be postponed,” states Spendedge, a procurement advisory firm that works with the food and beverage industry. “Products are held in cold-chain warehouses and, only after a specific order has been placed, is that product then prepared and packaged for shipment.”
Maintaining high-density storage in a distribution facility allows for more products to be stored in smaller spaces. This typically requires more technology, including radio frequency identification and laser scanning. Smaller distribution centers are also effective as last-mile distribution points and require less energy to cool than larger refrigerated spaces.
Spoilage is a common problem in food delivery, especially for fragile or perishable foods and pharmaceutical products that have different temperature and storage requirements. Refrigerated warehouses are constructing separate storage rooms, each with a specific temperature range. This keeps products as fresh as possible and extends shelf life during storage and shipping.
Distribution companies must invest in new systems and technologies to fulfill consumer expectations, strengthen their brand and stay competitive in the cold storage market. These technologies include automation, robotics, safer refrigerants and cooling systems as well as electronic monitoring devices. A great perk with robots is that they are unaffected by freezing temperatures and palletize perishable foods and pharmaceuticals far more quickly and efficiently than human workers. One of the latest trends in cold storage distribution is the use of touchscreen technology to make the process fast and easy for the cold storage crew. “With touchscreen technology and digital display, the temperature and apparatus monitoring is more effective and clearly visible when it comes to quality control checks,” according RLS Logistics, a New Jersey provider of warehousing and transportation services to the food industry.
Web-based platforms and cloud computing allow cold storage companies to manage their operations more efficiently, including real-time monitoring of transportation and delivery of products. The ability to “leverage real-time information from the production, manufacturing, storage and distribution stages helps companies effectively monitor and manage temperature, asset health, vehicle location, work flow and environmental data,” points out Current, a company specializing in connected process management solutions as IoT to food retailers. “There is little doubt these programs will become imperative to reducing waste, reassigning resources, improving maintenance regimes and assuring the delivery of the highest-quality meats and produce.”
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a contributing author and not necessarily Gray.